Today I wanted to talk about 2016, and how this is the year that changed me forever.

Medication

The initial plan at the beginning of this year was that I would be drug-free by this time.  Thoughts of having a “re-boot” time for my brain to see what was the cause of the pain, confusion and other various unexplainable health issues seemed logical.  Well, the plan started down a good path.  I am happily off of Seroquel.  I am still on the 2x a day dose of Clonazepam for anxiety, and the Lamictal is still hanging on tight.

Lamictal rash
Lamictal rash

Through trial and error, the Lamictal was down to nearing the end of coming off the dose, but the lack of the drug in my system caused me to spiral into a dark depression, so up went the dose again.  The depression (low mood) hung on, so between my physician, husband and myself decided to up the drug a bit more again.  That DID NOT work out.  The side-effects immediately were overwhelmingly negative.  The drug was reduced again.  It’s the bouncing back and forth that is the most frustrating to everyone.  Some of the side-effects I can manage with.  Even some of the symptoms of the bipolar are liveable most days. It is the unknowing future treatment that will sustain a positive lifestyle that is left me wondering what 2017 will bring.

During my last appointment, there was the discussion of changing to a different drug.  This always causes me more anxiety because I just don’t know how my body/mind will react.  The idea of being drug-free has now since been agreeably phased out.  The thoughts of being on drugs for the bipolar made me feel weak.  Reading story after story of high function anxiety/depression, people who get through their lives with no drugs…these all just lead me to believe that there was something vastly wrong with my life.  Something changed though when I began to accept that the medication was just another tool to my survival.  The use of medication didn’t make me a weak person, my thoughts of how I compared myself to others did.

Couples Counseling

 

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Me and my husband

I’ve been with my husband for 18 years. Like most other couples we found ourselves in a place where neither of us was completely happy.  Turning towards a counselor we were able to find our way back and go even a step further.  Each of us learning new skills, finding the root of our behaviours, and even coming together closer than we have ever been.  It was a tough year of changes, but well worth it.

 

Achievements

When I started out in 2016 I set myself small attainable goals, and then worked up to bigger ones.  Most of the goals were focused on pushing me past some personal expectation and barriers that prevented me from seeing my full potential as an artist.  This year though I made myself ‘get out there’ in public view.  The rewards are a mixed bag of emotions.

Showing off my artwork

I had my first gallery show of 17 pieces of art.  I had under 30 attendees and not a single image has sold from the collection.  I’ve donated 2 pieces to organizations.  The last one was to an auction, and it didn’t even get an opening bid.  If this had happened six months ago I would have felt crushed.  Now though I shrug my shoulders.  I can’t control what people see value in, and art is one of those things either you like it or you don’t.

This year I put out portrait submissions to a few magazines.  I focused a lot of energy creating these because I was looking through Pinterest and came up with the idea that ‘hey these are really amazing images, I should be doing this’.  The problem behind all that thinking was that I was comparing myself to someone else AGAIN.  I left my creativity on the curb side.  In the end, the payoff was still great.  Three images were published in various magazines.  I ordered each one up for a keepsake to remind myself that I am just as good as other photographers.

Removing negativity

Stop worrying what other people might think

This year I have tried to let go of my biggest fear in life.  The need to be liked by others has been crippling at times.  It started in my early years and continues to follow me like a dark horse.

The fear of rejection, not fitting in, not being/looking/acting the way I thought people expected me to be, I decided I needed to let this negative thought process go.  This year I  decided that for just once, I would be who I am unapologetically.

I know I’m a little kid-like some days, others I’m off-kilter, and others I’m quiet.. I HAVE BIPOLAR! It doesn’t make me weird.

Goodbye White Knight Syndrom

This flaw, shall we say has been rooted to the need to be liked by others.  If I give you something, you’ll like me right?  It doesn’t mean I’m trying to buy your friendship, it’s just one way I can express my care for you.

The problem I began to notice though is, that I was beginning to want something in return.  It would seem logical that if I give you something of importance to me, then it must be important to you to reciprocate in some manner.  Even a simple thank you would suffice in most instances.

You see, a weakness of mine is trying to help people before they help themselves. On a few occasions, I came to find out that the cry for help was due to greed or poor life choices which left with the sour feeling of being taken for granted.

I realized that some people need to learn to do for themselves or appreciate what they have already. Why should I have to sacrifice what little I have to give others what they want (not need)?  It’s hard not to become bitter when your sacrifice is not absolutely in any way necessary for someone else survival.

It took me a while to change my natural instinct to want to rescue an individual.  Now I gather more details.  Are they really suffering due to unforeseeable circumstances, or are they making poor choices in life.  There are those out there who deserve EVERY helping hand they get, but there comes a time when the helping needs to stop. A helping hand is no longer useful when it becomes an expectation.

 

Stop hiding away

Be more social

This past year I committed myself to find outside interests that involved working with others as a way to push me out of the house.  I tried to volunteer at our local art gallery as reception in January and February, but the left the position. At first, I looked at as this was something I couldn’t do, but now looking back it just wasn’t the best fit for my abilities.

I decided to continue my membership with our local photography club.  In my first year, meetings were overwhelming, so I attended very few.  This year I made it a goal to attend at least 1 a month out of the four available.  I also pushed myself to enter the competitions.  These provide good practice on improving my skills.  Each month at least one of the two images I submit have come in the top three.

Now when the awards are presented at the beginning of each month, I sit on the edge of my seat as each image rolls by on the big screen.  The top three are shown last.  As each of the image roll past my anxiety goes up, and my mind races – did they loose my image, where is it.  Then I settle down when I see it.  The whole point is that is good anticipation!  I’m learning the difference.  I’m also learning that it’s OK to be recognized for hard work.

Just say ‘yes’

The RV adventure

This summer we sold off our parked 5th wheel and purchase a small truck style RV.  My first reactions were fear, resistance, worry…all the things that kept me at home.  I have a very kind and understand husband, and he made sure everything in this tiny space would be comfortable.  We have a bathroom, kitchen, full bed, table and TV for watching movies.

He knows how anxious I get traveling, and how that anxiety can tire me out.  With this, he made me an offer I couldn’t really refuse.  For all the traveling we agree to do, there will be no expectations on how much outside activity I can handle.  If I need a nap, I get one.  If I need a quiet, let’s just park somewhere for the day enjoy the scenery, I get it.  The idea behind getting the traveling RV was to explore the world and spend time together.

We got the RV late in the season, yet we managed a few good trips anyway.  I’ve enjoyed them all!!!  The comforts, the company, the adventures..everything about having the ability to say yes has made the difference.

 

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Parking overnight at Pinery Provincial Park

 

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Our little canine campanion, Maggie

 

Growing older

Empty nesting is coming

Our youngest has been looking forward to September of next year when she graduates and will be heading off to higher education.  That will leave us with no children left at home.  It’s been an emotionally hard year, as I struggle with letting her go.. slowly.

Our other children, have all grown and the older girls live out of town, so I seldom see them.  I miss them all the time!!  Thank goodness for Facebook messenger, or I wouldn’t speak with them at all.  We don’t have a long distance plan on the phone.

What I learned though is that my feeling of loss is something my husband was experiencing too.  I didn’t know he was grieving the same way I was.  I guess as a Mom, you don’t see the other side of the parenting equation.  He’s always been an involved Dad.  So, as the kids need us less and less, he’s felt it too.

Realizing we are both experiencing a sense of impending loss has brought us closer together.

2017

I’ve been left to think about what 2017 will bring about.  What goals should I set for myself?  I’ve come up with just one — continue being myself.  There is no measurement for life.  You have today, you can remember yesterday, but you can’t rely on tomorrow.

GRATITUDE THOUGHT

I want to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read this lengthy post.  I also want to say thank you for leaving comments, being a friend when I needed you and just being you.  Today I am grateful for everyone in my life.  Happy holidays to you regardless of how you choose to celebrate – may you find hope, happiness, and friendships in 2017.

 

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Happy Holidays

 

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